ORLANDO — The Florida Department of Education celebrated academic excellence at Florida’s 26th annual Sunshine State Scholars conference in Orlando, honoring the state’s top performing 11th grade students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). More than 100 student-scholars and their parents attended the prestigious two-day event, which was hosted by the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation. Twenty-eight students also received 1-year scholarships funded by State Farm and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
“Sunshine State Scholars celebrates the best of the best in STEM learning,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “Thank you to all of our scholars who attended the event, and it is my hope they will choose Florida’s number one ranked higher education system when deciding where to continue their education.”
“State Farm is committed to helping nurture students’ creativity and sparking their imagination through STEM,” said State Farm Enterprise Technology Manager Kevin Reeves. “We encourage students to enter STEM fields and become lifelong learners, while simultaneously contributing to a dynamic global society.”
“We recognize the commitment these students have shown in their studies, and we are thrilled to partner with State Farm to present more than two dozen 1-Year Florida University Plan scholarships,” said Florida Prepaid College Foundation Director Cynthia O’Connell. “Their passion to excel in high-demand fields will change the future. On behalf of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, I am inspired by each of them and confident in all that they will achieve.”
Each year, Florida school districts select their top 11th grade STEM students for the Sunshine State Scholars program. These scholars, along with their parents, engage in an extraordinary program designed to connect them with Florida’s postsecondary education institutions and employers that specialize in the STEM fields. This year, 105 scholars participated in a “think tank” addressing difficult Florida challenges, which included problem-solving activities and presentations from industry and research experts. Each scholar also received a brand new iPad, courtesy of AT&T, and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment provided each scholar with two tickets to enjoy a day at the park.
The 2023 Sunshine State Scholars also met with representatives from Florida’s top ranked higher education system — ranked #1 in the country for the past six years in a row — including members of both the Florida University System and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida. The university representatives conducted informational sessions on college funding, held interactive panel discussions with STEM industry professionals, and communicated higher education opportunities in Florida.
The Department recognized each scholar during the event and presented 28 students with 1year scholarships to attend one of Florida’s top ranked higher education institutions. The 2023 Sunshine State Scholars scholarship winners are:
• Abigail Dagiins, Alachua
• Thien-Nhi Nguyen, Brevard
• Arya Gujarathi, Broward
• Badrinath Konidala, Broward
• Andrew Herrmann, Collier
The 2023 Sunshine State Scholars conference was made possible through the support of the Florida Education Foundation, and generous sponsors including State Farm, Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Florida Lottery, Kyra Solutions, Helios, Lockheed Martin and Nagarro.